While the expansion of the coffee shop chains such as Costa and Starbucks is the main driver of coffee shop market growth, according to Allegra Strategies, it is consumers who will shape the future marketplace with their demands for premium coffee, any time, anywhere. And that is, of course, good news for forecourt operators.

For Tracey Richards, store manager at Guys Cliffe BP Simply Food, Warwick Forecourt Trader’s Best Hot Beverages Outlet 2014 it’s important to provide customers with what they want, otherwise they will go to one of the many High Street coffee shops.

"We offer customers a premium experience at the store quality fuel, a partnership with M&S and, most recently, the launch of our rebranded Wild Bean Café offering best-in-class, on-the-go food and drinks," she says.

The coffee beans used are 100% Fairtrade. "We use a blend of high-quality Arabica beans that are sourced from Central and Southern American countries throughout the year to ensure freshness. They are then blended and roasted to perfection to work in harmony with our coffee machine and ensure the best possible quality and taste consistency is delivered to our Wild Bean Café consumers in every single cup," Tracey continues.

Focal point

The coffee machine in question is a new semi-barista machine from Cimbali, which Tracey says is a real focal point thanks to its coloured lights.

She says Cimbali supported the site with training on the new machine, where there was a real focus on the use of the machine’s steam arm and the four milk options. Those options include skinny, soy and semi skimmed, and Tracey says having the choice is particularly important for her female customers.

Best sellers generally are latte, cappuccino and Americano, while the white van men like a cup of tea. The site has a loyalty scheme where customers purchase five coffees then get their sixth free. Tracey says it’s a popular offer.

Her advice to forecourts is simple: "Make sure you work with very good suppliers and employ great baristas. They are the front line to your customers."

However, not every forecourt can afford to have a full coffee bar offer complete with barista but there’s good news as there are loads of other offers available.

One of the most popular is the Costa Express concept which they have at Penny Petroleum’s Auld Brig Filling Station in Alloa. They’ve had it for around 18 months, and manager Cheryl Hudson says it’s made a big difference to sales. "It gets used every single day, morning and afternoon," she says.

Two sizes of drinks are available: regular at £2.10 and large at £2.40, but regular is most popular.

Cheryl also says it’s very efficient. "There’s a spot check every four weeks when any problems are picked up but there aren’t usually any. Cleaning is straightforward as there are on-screen instructions and you just put the cleaning agents in and press the buttons."

The site has been supplied with eye-catching point of sale to promote the offer including a giant Costa cup that’s stood outside. They don’t have a loyalty scheme but do special deals the current one combines a regular coffee with a large sausage roll.

Meanwhile, Country Choice offers the Boston’s concept which has coffee, tea and hot chocolate. Coffee varieties are white, latte, cappuccino, Americano, espresso and double espresso. Suggested retail price is £1.50 for all drinks and retailers can make around 75% profit on the coffee and around 45% on the tea and chocolate.

A medium-volume machine costs £2,700 and a high-volume one, £5,900. Country Choice says payback is typically four to five months depending on the machine and the volumes served.

Clive Sheppard, a director at Top 50 Indie Chartman Group, has Boston’s for some of his sites because the company already had a relationship with Country Choice, so it was a natural choice. "The machines are simple to use they’ve got to be because if they are too confusing consumers could simply walk away. We’ve found that our customers are confident in using the machine and that the drinks are the right quality and served at the right temperature."

When it comes to offers, Clive likes to mix it up, so when you visit one of his sites, you could be greeted by a loyalty stamp scheme where you get your sixth cup of coffee free or a link deal with a special price on a coffee and a pastry.

"A deal that appeals to one type of consumer might not appeal to another so we like to change them around a bit," he explains.

Tea time

Clive has recently complemented his Costa coffee offer at his Winning Post site with a PG Tips PG2Go solution from Expresso Plus.

The colourful PG2GO branded pod unit is eye catching and easy to use, which means consumers can select their drink swiftly. Integrated pockets store sugar sticks, stirrers, sip lids and PG Tips cups. Storage below the drinks system and integrated waste mean the unit is self-sufficient.

Expresso Plus marketing manager, Siobhan Scanlon, says: "Once the decision was made to install a ’tea to go’ offer, the next requirement was a leading brand. PG Tips has been around since the 1930s and carries huge brand awareness in the UK so attaching a trusted brand like PG Tips meant Winning Post instantly attracted brand loyal customers."

Clive says it completes the offer and is already a big success within the first month of having it Winning Post sold 10 times more tea than before. "We doubled our margins meaning a hugely positive impact on our profits."

In addition to the PG2Go unit, Expresso Plus can provide Lavazza and Nescafé Alegria-branded coffee towers as well as traditional barista machines. With the coffee towers, less than one square metre of space is required and the firm says you only need to sell as few as six cups of coffee per day to break even. As well as bean-to-cup coffee, machines serve hot chocolate, tea and soup.

But it’s the company’s automatic barista machines which are said to provide the theatrics of a manual machine with ease of use. "You don’t have to worry about staff training, you can have freshly ground bean-to-cup coffee with silky smooth milk foam at the push of a button," says Scanlon.

What is more, the machines have an easy one-step cleaning process and a wipe-clean exterior.

It would seem you can’t lose with Tchibo’s latest offer the firm is so certain that you and your customers will love its coffee, that it’s offering convenience and forecourt operators a four-week free trial.

Its self-service Piccolo system has been designed specifically for the coffee-to-go market and is described as the "ideal solution for sites selling 20-plus cups a day".

It’s available on a 50/50 split profit share basis and Tchibo supplies free coffee for the first week of installation to get customers to try before they buy.

Counter-top solution

For forecourts with less space, there’s Tchibo’s counter-top solution, again designed for sites selling at least 20 cups a day. Tchibo says it offers the very latest in technology with interactive messaging including a communications platform for brand awareness and bespoke promotions to help drive additional sales.

Top 50 Indie Park Garage Group has Tchibo coffee on 43 sites. Operations director Miles Harvey says the firm is a very good brand partner. "They’ve been very flexible in their approach and good to work with. We’ve used Tchibo for more than 10 years. We started off with a table-top machine but now have the latest machines that use 100% Arabica beans and offer serious coffee."

Miles thinks giving away free coffee for the first week of installation is brilliant for getting people to taste it and trial it. The forecourt firm runs a loyalty scheme where customers buy nine coffees and get their 10th free; they’ve also tried loads of link deals over the years. "We’ve linked coffee with confectionery, with bake off, with our own Park & Shop water and with Red Bull. The water offer was along the lines of a hot drink to drink now and a bottle of water for later. With Red Bull we figured that coffee drinkers might like an energy drink later."

Miles’ advice to anyone looking at getting into hot beverages to go for the first time is to do your research: "You need to do a demographic survey; look at the offers around you; ask what customers want; and talk to the experts for advice," he says.

Finally, a new name on the coffee scene is Jack’s Beans, launched by Smiths News to support the company’s diversification strategy.

It is described as a "fresh opportunity for community-based retailers to access the lucrative coffee shop market". Good news for retailers is that consumables are delivered alongside newspapers.

The Jack’s Beans unmanned coffee bar’s space-saving design means it measures just 500mm in width. Capable of serving 100 drinks a day, it has been created to enable retailers to boost incremental revenue with minimal staff maintenance.

The concept launched earlier this year with a range of six variants made using Fairtrade espresso coffee beans and fresh milk. Drinks retail at £2 each.

At the launch, Jonathan Bunting, Smiths News’ managing director, said: "We have invested a significant amount of time and energy behind both the product and delivery system. The result is the kind of ’barista-style’ coffee customers have come to expect from high-street coffee shops, but in a convenient format."

Filter Focus

Filter coffee is apparently in resurgence as ’real’ coffee lovers are rediscovering the pure cup of coffee; no foam, no sprinkles, no added flavours just coffee. As a result, dedicated filter coffee cafés are popping up and many operators are now offering filter coffee alongside their espresso-based drinks.
WMF is cashing in on the trend with its new 1200F model. A compact, entry level, bean-to-cup, filter coffee machine, the 1200F shares much of the technology of the 1200S model, but with many new features that are aimed at raising the quality of filter coffee service and diminishing the memories of the stewed, burnt offerings of the ’90s.
Ideal for those with small-to-medium demand such as forecourts, the 1200F is available with one or two grinders, enabling retailers to provide both regular and decaffeinated coffee. Drinks are dispensed either at the front, to cups and small jugs from the height adjustable spout, or via the brew arm to jugs up to 2.5ltr in capacity, which can be located on either side of the machine.
The 1200F is currently only available as a plumbed-in machine with a constant water supply, but there are a number of eco-modes that enable retailers to save money on energy. The machine will automatically switch off after 10 minutes of inactivity, for example, but will take just 15 seconds to heat up again, ready for its next dispense.
For those wanting to maintain a quality speciality coffee offer, WMF’s 1500S, one of its collection of new generation bean-to-cup machines, is said to be perfect for the smaller operator. Whether located behind the counter or customer-facing on the counter, its touch screen makes it ideally suited to self-service.
As with all WMF automatic bean-to-cup coffee machines, retailers can tailor it to suit their requirements. However, the base model has an improved Americano bypass, which creates a smoother coffee with a cleaner flavour. It also has selectable mood lighting, a basic steam wand to foam milk by hand and a new steam jet which is able to give a burst of steam to an empty cup prior to dispensing coffee, effectively heating up the cup, ensuring a consistent drink temperature.

Souper addition

As winter warmers go, nothing beats soup so it’s great to hear that Maggi soups are now available for Nescafé & Go machines, in tomato, vegetable and chicken flavours.
Since its launch in 2007, more than 18,000 Nescafe & Go self-service units have been sold. Costing just £99, they enable retailers to offer drinks including Nescafé coffee, Aero hot chocolate, Tetley tea and now Maggi soup.
According to Key Note, the UK soup market is set to grow by 29.5% to £869m by 2017. Other research has found that lunchtime is the peak time for snack sales and so selling ready-to-go soups when it’s cold outside, provides a great way for forecourts to profit.

Cleaning up

You may well be cleaning up on coffee sales but what about the cleaning of the actual machine?
According to cleaning specialist Diversey Care, many outlets could reduce running costs and generate bigger profits by cleaning their coffee machines more often.
The first reason to clean a coffee machine is improved quality and taste. The essential oils that help give coffee its distinctive flavour are released during roasting and the brewing process. Left alone they form residues inside the machine and even very small amounts of residue can affect the taste of the coffee.
Diversey says that in most commercial situations, a machine should be cleaned at least daily. 
 The second major reason for cleaning a coffee machine is reliability. The same oily deposits that affect the taste of the coffee will eventually block the tubes and filters inside the machine. In hard water areas, limescale can accumulate and add to the problem. Blockages slow the machine down which affects efficiency but the bigger problems are damage to components and malfunctions.
 Diversey says these issues apply to all common types of coffee-making equipment including traditional and automatic espresso, drip filter or vacuum flask and fresh-brew or bean-to-cup vending machines.
The firm’s new Suma Cafe range costs just a few pence per day for cleaning each machine. It includes simple, effective and sustainable products suitable for every common type of coffee machine. Diversey says this small investment can make a real difference in coffee quality and machine performance, which leads to the enhanced customer perceptions and behaviour that help to maximise profits and reduce maintenance costs.

A simple solution

Simply Coffee says it can help forecourts profit from the coffee boom by offering a deal where there’s no capital outlay, no stock investment and no maintenance fees. All retailers need to provide is one square meter of space to house the 950mm x 2100mm x 700mm machine and guarantee sales of 12 drinks per day.
Simply Coffee installs the machines, supplies the consumables, provides the milk, agrees the pricing and provides cleaning, maintenance and merchandising support. Revenue is shared between the company and the forecourt retailer.
Coffee is made from 100% Rainforest Alliance Arabica beans and as well as café latte, cappuccino, espresso, long black and flat white, the machines can dispense hot chocolate, mocha, fresh leaf and masala tea.